On Death

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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On Death

Postby AhDistinctly » Wed Aug 23, 2006 6:28 pm

Keats had the experience of death quite early and often in his short life. While death is a common denominator in every person’s life experience, the types of death people are exposed to change through the ages. Loss of life from war and violence seem to be the “common” unnatural means today, while death from illness and disease, moving fast or slow, are seen as an affront to our mastery of science. Death from disease is more unnatural today, although no less unwelcome than in the past.

I am curious to hear your assessment of how death affected the nature of Keats’ writing (both in his works and in his letters) and the intensity of his devotion to family, friends, and Fanny. What if his parents and brother (and, I would assume, other siblings who may have died in infancy) had lived to a ripe old age? Would he have seen with the same eye?
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Postby Brave Archer » Thu Aug 24, 2006 9:15 pm

Death does affect us all differently, and I think i'm safe in assuming that with the exeption of Ode On A Grecian Urn we probably wouldn't have gotten the Odes. I think the death of his parents, and others close to him in his family and the understanding that he wasn't gonna live to see a ripe old age,may have been the reason for him being in a constant state of depression and denial. In some of the letters he had written it seem'd as though he was trying to talk others into believing that he was gonna be alright.

At the same time,I think that had they all live to see into there winter seasons,I believe that we would have gotten much better poetry from him. He had so much to offer, but he focus'd a lot more on the negative than the positve, and that in no way to me is a negative. He's one of the best ever and he was only into the second decade of his life, so much to offer, but given so little time.


I know a lot of this may seem contradictory, but there is so much running through my mind about this question that I can't seem to answer any other way.

One of my favorite parts of Keats' life are his philoshophies, and I don't believe they were affect'd in any way by anything other than his love of life and it's limit'd possibilities.

Im just gonna write an essay on this a post it. I have a lot to say on this subject, but can't keep my mind from running here and there.
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Postby Malia » Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:19 pm

Interesting and very meaty question, AhDistinctly! :)
I think death affected Keats's world view immensely. And I'm not only thinking about the deaths of his family members--but also of the death and illness he must have encountered at Guys during medical school. I'm sure that experience greatly influenced his ideas about the "poet physician" and all that that particular calling prescribed.

I don't think I'm alone when I say that Keats's premonition of his own impending death caused him to focus his poetical efforts with an almost lazer-like precision enabling him to accomplish more poetical feats of genius in his last creative year than most writers can accomplish in a lifetime of work. It's said that the low-burning fever of Keats's tuburcular infection actually aided his imagination--the irony of this fits perfectly in line with the many ironies of Keats's life and the "light and shade" of his work. So in a way, death helped create the poetry that still lives today :)


Brave Archer wrote:At the same time,I think that had they all live to see into there winter seasons,I believe that we would have gotten much better poetry from him.



I have to disagree with you, Brave Archer. I think, had Keats's mother and dad lived, he wouldn't have turned to poetry in the first place. He needed poetry to help him deal with the pain and suffering of being the eldest child in a broken family. I can't exactly remember the quote but someone once said that you if you are to be a poet, you must have some tragic experience in your life first. I don't know if that's true--but that seems to be the trend.

Again, if Keats's brother Tom had lived, I don't think Keats would have matured as quickly either intellectually or poetically. He certainly wouldn't have fallen in love with Fanny Brawne if he had his beloved brother to occupy his heart--I think he fell for Fanny because he was particularly alone when he met her and his heart was vulnerable. I think Tom's death was the tipping point in Keats's poetical life--Tom's death and the thoughts and feelings it stimulated in Keats influenced some Keats's greatest works including La Belle Dame and Ode to a Nightingale.

I think if Keats's life had been more comfortable or conventional, his poetical career never would have taken place.
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Postby AhDistinctly » Sun Aug 27, 2006 3:16 am

Thank you, Brave Archer and Malia, for taking on this question. It was/is central to my interest in Keats (the person, not the writing). Looking internally, I wonder how my life, my outlook, and my writing (short story is my forte) would be different had I not had my own loss experience.

Any talent I possess did not change (for better or worse), but the act of writing became more of a need than just a desire. Perhaps when one is happy, content and filled with the act of living, writing (in any form) doesn't seem to have the opportunity to become all consuming.

Brave Archer wrote:Im just gonna write an essay on this a post it. I have a lot to say on this subject, but can't keep my mind from running here and there.


I look forward to hearing more on this from anyone who would care to weigh in. I'll watch for your essay, Brave Archer.
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Re: On Death

Postby Cath » Fri Nov 25, 2011 2:31 pm

Malia wrote:
I can't exactly remember the quote but someone once said that you if you are to be a poet, you must have some tragic experience in your life first. I don't know if that's true--but that seems to be the trend.


I wonder whether Malia was thinking (back in 2006!) of a quote by the US poet John Berryman, who said:
“I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business: Beethoven's deafness, Goya's deafness, Milton's blindness, that kind of thing.”
― John Berryman

Berryman himself was faced with a tragic ordeal in childhood - his father committed suicide outside John's bedroom window when the poet was 12. In 1972 the poet himself died by his own hand at the age of 57, having substantiated his point above by publishing many volumes of poetry and being awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the mid-sixties.

I wonder what Berryman made of Keats's work and life? Does anyone know?
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Re: On Death

Postby amiable » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:54 am

i suffered by TB in year 2007 and i can understand the feelings of my dear poet more than any body else, even english is not my language but i fall in love with john keats due to this similarity.
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